Knight-Batten Awards Honor Innovative Recipes for Journalism

Journalism / Article

We never know what will rise to the top each year in the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism. But we do know that it will define a significant trend in the rapidly evolving media landscape.

This year, without a doubt, the innovations clustered around the process of journalism ‘ not just the finished product.

The processes honored are kicking into high gear how collaborations ‘ with readers, news providers, data gatherers and ordinary citizens ‘ are fostering unique levels of digital engagement.’ They are producing different forms of news, growing it, sharing it, amplifying it, making it engaging ‘and often having demonstrable impact.

Ushahidi Haiti became the go-to place for those delivering disaster-relief services. ProPublica’s growing corps of citizen reporters is helping the investigative news site report news from the ground up. 48 HR Magazine shows us how to do a stunning deep-dive on a crowdsourced topic with rapid-fire turnaround.

To be sure, the winners are showing us that it’s important to go beyond the shock and awe that crowdsourcing actually can work and begin to refine the recipe for putting it on the menu of daily journalism.

The robustness of all the top ideas told us that formulaic journalism on auto-pilot is dead. (Read more in our news release.)

Very much alive are things like Sunlight Live, the $10,000 Grand Prize winner. How do you cover a highly orchestrated, bipartisan news event like February’s health summit? It involves more than a reporter taking notes on the proceedings.

Take one orchestrated political event, stream the video, find a way to blog it live. Then sprinkle in via widget deep data from OpenSecrets to tie the speakers to the campaign contributions they received. ‘Let the numbers do a little more of the talking than just the politicians,’ said Jake Brewer in Sunlight’s blog unpacking the project’s execution.

Add a widget for Twitter talk about the event.’ And pepper it with visualizations, such as word clouds and tweet graphs to boost understanding.

The result: nearly 43,000 watched the debate on Sunlight Live, 9,800 participated in the liveblog, more than 1,300 tweets were sent out.

The Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism have been around since 2003. The awards were among the first to recognize global blogging, interactive games and exercises, creative data and mapping mash ups, nonprofit news, and the role creative technologists are playing in journalism.

We don’t know what will come to the fore next year, but we know, that like this year, it will make us more optimistic, rather than pessimistic, about the future of journalism.

– Jan Schaffer, J-Lab, The Institute of Interactive Journalism This was originally posted at www.j-lab.org. Knight Foundation funds the awards.